Today I am feeling a little free. You see, this morning I mailed off four Christmas packages to family who live far away. I grew up in Wisconsin, but have lived in New Mexico since 1998. Most of my family is still in Wisconsin or surrounding states, and once we had a child, I declared we were no longer traveling for Christmas. I wanted him to have memories of the holiday rooted in his home. That means people either have to travel to us, or that I’m going to be mailing packages across the country.

Back when my mother and father in law were alive, they and my sister in law would travel to us. I was glad to have them. I wanted my kid to have family around at holidays. Sometimes my father would come too. Sadly, my in laws passed away, my FIL one year, and then my MIL a bit under two years later. And there has been Covid, which means my father is less likely to come as well (flying has no appeal, and a cross country drive in the heart of winter isn’t great either). So the past few years, Christmas has just been the three of us here in New Mexico. We’re pretty good at celebrating just the three of us, but I miss the fun and the stress of having family around.

But I was trying to talk about mailing packages. Mailing Christmas packages stresses me out every year. I don’t know why exactly. It is a task that hangs over my head and makes me fret. I put it off, and then worry about dealing with long lines at the post office. Long lines have even less appeal now that Covid is around, so this year the task was fretting me even more than usual. But I knew I needed to get everything out this week so that it would all arrive in time.

My dad suggested over the phone that UPS might be less crowded than the post office, which struck me as a true statement. So this morning, right after we dropped our kid off at school, Eric and I drove the UPS Store and I went in and found myself the only customer. Three came in while I was being helped, but even so, that was way less people than I likely would have found at the post office. And now the packages are on their way, and they are no longer fretting at my heart. I let them go. I hope they bring happiness to their recipients, but even if they don’t — I let them go.

My next holiday task is to sew curtains for Eric’s home office. But first I think I’ll spend the rest of today with my hand stitching. As a little gift to myself.  Because I’m feeling free.


Back in my 20s, I really liked to cook. Cooking probably counted as a hobby for me back then. I considered myself to be good at it, and it was a pleasure. At some point in the proceeding 20some years, I lost my passion for cooking. I’m still the family’s cook, but my efforts are pretty much utilitarian these days, and I don’t take much enjoyment from it. I feed us because we need to be fed. Sometimes I enjoy some simple baking. But I mostly don’t enjoy cooking. It’s too bad, really. It would be very convenient if I enjoyed cooking. We all have to eat anyway; what if I took more pleasure in the process of keeping us fed?

Last night I did have a glimmer of enjoyment in the cooking. I had planned a lentil soup with kale for dinner, with cornbread on the side. I usually keep my lentil soup very simple — flavored with garlic, salt, and pepper and then we top our bowls with parmesan. This meal reminds my husband of his late mother, and of course that is a good thing. But last night as the soup simmered, I was moved to do something different. So I added a tablespoon of curry powder and a can of coconut milk, changing the personality of that soup entirely.

And, friends, it was so delicious! Just the best soup I’ve had in ages. We had it with the cornbread, and everyone was happy and satisfied. Even my kid had no complaints. I’m looking forward to the leftovers for lunch today. It was nice to be reminded that I can play with our meals sometimes, and that this can have delicious results. I do not think I’m going to become a hobbyist cook again anytime soon, but last night was good.


I was a little melancholy yesterday morning. That probably inspired my blog post for the day. I’m not sure why, maybe just the bad dreams I had all night. Luckily, in the afternoon I had plans. They weren’t leaving the house plans. Instead, I shut myself in the guest room, which is also my sewing room, and participated in a couple sewing circles over Zoom. During the first, I mostly puttered while listening to other people work and chat. I wound my bobbin, threaded my machine, and did some practice sewing. Then I did some hand stitching until the two-hour circle was up. After that, I joined my fellows in the main part of the house for an hour. Then I went back to the guest room, this time for an apron sewing workshop over Zoom. Both were hosted by Muna and Broad, which is my pattern company of choice. I’ve been teaching myself how to sew using their pattern instructions and videos, and I’m also a member of their patreon community. It is nice to have a sewing community for advice, props, and commiseration.

I was looking forward to the workshop, as I’ve been wanting to sew an apron since I first started sewing. Plus size aprons are almost non-existent, as far as I can tell. Most ready made aprons are one-size-fits-all, and that size does not include me. So, once I decided to learn to sew, an apron was one of the first things I thought of. I bought an indy pattern off Etsy, only to realize it too was too small for me. When I joined Muna and Broad’s patreon, I was glad to see they had an apron pattern available there, but I didn’t have the nerve to tackle it, as the instructions were written up as if you knew what you were doing, and I most certainly did not. I made other things instead — two box tops, a dress, a jacket.

So, I was excited last week when Muna and Broad released their apron as a full-fledged pattern, complete with more detailed instructions. Even better, they announced a Zoom sewing workshop for the pattern this weekend. I enjoyed the workshop a lot. I am too much of a beginner to have been able to keep up with the more experienced sewists’ pace. I tried, but found myself sewing too fast for me and making a really dumb mistake which I had to fix with a seam ripper. So at that point, I stopped trying to keep up and just watched and picked up tips. It was a good way to spend the late afternoon, and by the end of it, I did not have a complete apron, but I did have a partially done one and I was pretty sure I could finish the rest in an hour or two of work.

This morning, like usual, my body woke me at 5:00. I’ve been resolving, since I can’t seem to sleep past 5:00, to use those hours for good instead of idling them away on the internet. So this morning, once I’d had my coffee, I finished up my apron. I carefully followed the instructions, and sewed slowly, and in about 90 minutes, I’d finished it with no real mishaps. I put it on just in time to stir up a batch of pumpkin muffins for Sunday breakfast. I’m delighted with the apron. It fits well, protects my clothes from kitchen mess, and is a really kind of wild woven hemp print that just makes me happy. It is good, being able to make things for myself. I don’t feel melancholy today, and at least some of that has to do with making a new thing with my hands.

On Christmas

As a kid I wasn’t that into Christmas. My parents were divorced, and every year there was some push and pull about when I was going to be where. I found it stressful, and in general found the expectation that I be happy and grateful and sweet stressful too. I can remember from a pretty early age opening presents and reminding myself — act happy, act sweet, smile, say thank you. It was a lot of pressure, opening presents. It probably didn’t help that neither my father or my mother really seemed to like the holiday either. My dad was vocal about disliking the holidays, and my mom resisted even simple traditions. We didn’t even have a Christmas tree, though I begged for one every year. She said we were too poor for a tree, and while we were poor, I am pretty sure we could have come up with something. One year a friend of hers informed her that she HAD to get her grade school daughter a tree, and so that year we had one and I reveled in it. We didn’t have any decorations so I made them. I made popcorn and cranberry strings, and hung pictures from the branches. But the next year, we were back to no tree. She even gave me a lump of coal and nothing else one year when I was a teen. Another I was surprised to see multiple boxes piled up for Christmas — I was used to just getting one present from her — only to open them and find out one was a real present and the rest were half-empty wrapped cereal boxes and such. Which is all to say, Christmas really isn’t my thing.

But my stepmother did introduce me to a different kind of Christmas. Some of it made me uncomfortable. Like, she seemed to assume I believed in Santa for years (my mother told me there was no Santa when I was in kindergarten, the year of my parent’s divorce) and I didn’t really know how to respond to that. But some of it was pretty cool. We’d bake sugar cut-out cookies each year and decorate them, and that was fun. Or we’d decorate the tree together (there was always a tree at her and my dad’s house) and talk about each ornament as we put them up, telling the same little stories about them each year. We’d also sip hot cocoa and listen to a recording of Dylan Thomas reading a Child’s Christmas in Wales. I thought this was astonishingly boring, though I didn’t have the nerve to tell her that, but even then I sort of appreciated that we did it every year. I liked traditions as a kid, little routines you did every year, and I didn’t get enough of them from my mom and dad.

As an adult I didn’t make a big deal of Christmas for the most part. It was more stressful than anything. But then my husband and I had a baby when I was 38, and from the start, I knew how I wanted to do Christmas with him. As an adult, Christmas is a little internal check list for me. I have the traditions in my head, and I try to make sure each one happens. I try to ride the balance between festive, and not too stressful for me. Like, we bake and decorate gingerbread cookies each year. Not a million different delicious cookies. That would stress me out too much. But we do the gingerbread every year, and then have a little family decorating party for them where we share memories about decorated cookies in years past. A lot of it feels exhausting to me, but I try not to let on about that to my kid.

And it must work, because he LOVES Christmas. He looks forward to it, and he seems to relish in it all with unselfconscious joy. He loves the decorations we bring out each year. He loves his advent calendars (three this year — the wooden tree where he puts up an ornament each day, a Lego calendar, and a fidget calendar). He loves “decorating day” where we decorate the living room for Christmas, telling stories to each other about each one as we bring them out. I feel like I’ve done something right when it comes to him and Christmas. I’ve broken a cycle, and I can’t help but feel good about that. As the years pass, I even find myself starting to take pleasure in some of the traditions we’ve built together. And that’s something to celebrate.

An Anniversary of Sorts

Yesterday I purposefully didn’t write an entry in the morning. “I’ll write it at night, after I’ve had a day,” I thought. “That way I’ll have plenty to write about!” What I forgot is that I get up at 5:00 in the morning and by dinnertime, my brain is in the process of shutting off. Evening is not my friend when it comes to writing. So, today I’m back to writing in the morning.

I don’t know why I wake at 5:00. My only explanation is that is has to do with getting older. All I know is that when I wake at 5:00, bed doesn’t feel good anymore. I feel itchy and ready to get on with my day, so I do. I had been mostly using the hours between 5-7:15 to play on the internet, but this week I started using them to do my handwork instead. Doing handwork in the quiet of the early morning, accompanied only by a podcast or audiobook, is really a very pleasant and grounding way to start the day, I’m learning. I’m going to try to keep this new habit up.

This morning I finished up my ornament that I spent much of yesterday hemming. I finished up the stitching, and then gave everything a good press with the new iron. I will sheepishly admit that I am officially now a person who has Opinions about irons, and that my new one is about a thousand time better than my old one. Positively a pleasure to use. A little thrilling even. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone I said so. The ornament is now resting beneath a pile of heavy books to flatten out the buckram that is inside of it, and then next week I’ll send it to a loved one who, I think, will appreciate it a lot. The design is an Orthodox cross, which is normally very much not my kind of thing to stitch, but I think its recipient will like it a lot.

It is sort of my two-year anniversary of getting onto the path of this stitching and sewing thing. Two years ago today I posted on Facebook that I’d read an article in Slate about latch hooking rugs, and how it was the perfect pandemic hobby, and I’d ordered a kit. (Note: turns out I really hated latch hooking rugs.) Friends posted in the comments that I might like cross stitch too, which led me to finding Avlea Folk Embroidery on Etsy. And the rest is history. I now have been embroidering and cross stitching Avlea designs for a couple years, though it only really ramped up a year ago, and hand stitching a pillow inspired me to look into getting a sewing machine and here I am now. Talking about my new iron and waking at five to stitch buckram into a silk lining. I realize my new interests make me sound like I’m 80, but they bring me so much joy I don’t really care.

Hemming with Cat

I spent much of the day hemming a little cross stitch that will eventually become an ornament. It was careful, pleasant, soothing work. I love the feeling of sitting down and immersing myself in the needle and thread. Now I’m too tired to write a proper entry, so I’ll just mark the day with a picture of me stitching over the body of a very happy, very smug cat.

On Overlockers and Fun

Overlocker is actually the British word for the thing. Here in the USA we call them sergers. But I dislike the word serger. It feels squishy and hissy in my mouth, and it doesn’t really describe what the thing does. In contrast, overlocker is a nice word with corners to it, and it handily describes what the thing does –it locks threads over a seam.

I got my overlocker a couple months ago. I decided I needed one to finish off my seams in my sewing and to sew knits with as well. I knew to get something fairly new. Even the nutty vintage sewing machine people who will tell you all modern sewing machines are junk, even they will tell you to stay away from vintage overlockers. Buy new, they’ll tell you, and get the priciest one you can afford. I listened to this advice, somewhat. My overlocker is on the newer side compared to my sewing machines and it is a well-regarded brand, a Babylock. I did buy it used through Marketplace, but its previous owner assures me she had it serviced every year at a local Babylock dealer. I paid her cash for it, and it was cheap compared to what a new Babylock overlocker would be, but more than I paid for my Singer 66 a couple weeks ago.

Once I bought the overlocker, I brought it home and it sat on the dresser in the guest room. It sat there unused for the good six weeks. The thing had four threads! Two needles and two loopers! And a knife! I was scared of it. So I let it sit there, and it helped that my sewing project had Hong Kong bound seams that didn’t need an overlocker anyway. But then a couple weeks ago I saw someone recommend an online overlocker course for complete beginners, and on a whim I bought the course and started watching its videos.

Before I knew it, I’d pulled the overlocker off the dresser and set it up at the table, and I tried overlocking my first scrap of fabric. I think I may have actually screamed when I did. As a podcast I heard recently said, “Overlocking is like sewing, but faster and with knives.” It was a scream of delight though. What fun. My husband and son came in and watched me use the thing with something approaching awe. They saw it too. This thing was powerful, fun, and a little scary. My son requested and received one of my scraps of overlocked fabric.

Today I pulled the overlocker out again. This time because I needed to prewash some fabric for a project I’m going to work on this weekend, and before you prewash fabric, it is best to bind the raw edges so it doesn’t unravel on you. So, I sat down with my unwashed fabric, I overlocked the edges, and now it is in washing machine. It all sounds very simple, but I got that same thrilling rush from using the overlocker that I did the first time. That thing is fun! I may barely know how to use it (it came already threaded), but I am enjoying the hell out of it.

That’s the real secret to why I’ve become so obsessed with my stitching, sewing, and related sewing machine activities. Because I find them all fun. I’m having so much fun with all of this. The past few years, they haven’t been that fun for anyone. So I’ve grabbed onto this bit of fun and I’m seeing how far it will take me.

Errands and De-Fluffing

I spent the morning today doing errands. First, I brought my kid’s lunch to school because he forgot it. Then I headed up to a local toy store in the North Valley to pick up an order. This toy store has been supplying me with Santa’s stocking stuffers for my kid’s stocking each Christmas for the past five years. They used to be a pop-up shop that was open for just a few months, but they recently opened a year-round location. At 10.5, my kid is mostly too old for a lot of the stuff in the shop, but I still found some cool things for his stocking. Now, the toy store’s new location is across the street from an excellent bakery, so of course I stopped in there and got a loaf of whole wheat bread and a couple green chile cheddar biscuits. I just had my biscuit with tea.

It was a pleasant morning of errands, and they felt novel because we’ve been so locked down for so long. It is only fairly recently that I’m willing to mask up and go inside a store. We’ve been doing most of our shopping by delivery, and still are. But I’m willing to go into some locally owned places while wearing a mask to pick up things for the holidays. Last week I visited a local candy shop and stocked up on the traditional Christmas candy. Today, I did the toy store. Tomorrow, okay, this isn’t locally owned, I think I’ll go early as I can to Trader Joe’s and pick up some frozen meals and peppermint sandwich cookies.

This afternoon I plan to de-fluff and possibly also oil my Singer 221. It is full of pink lint from my jacket project, and desperately needs some oil. I’ve got plans to sew all afternoon on Saturday. (Muna and Broad is having an apron-making workshop! Come join me!) So, my trusty machine needs to be in top shape by then.

Life is pretty good lately. There are multiple pleasant and productive ways to spend my time, and I’m getting a lot of joy from all of them. I feel lucky, and know I’m privileged. It helps too that my little family here is currently in a good place. We are good right now at being together, and being happy. I’m thankful.


I’m making some plans for this coming week, some tinkering plans. My Singer 221 got kind of clanky by the end of my jacket project. Clearly it needs some spa time, with a good cleaning and oiling. Then I’ll clean and oil the Singer 66, which will be fun as I have yet to do anything to the machine but admire it. I then plan to install a new treadle belt and start the process of teaching myself to use the thing. I’ve read that using a treadle is a lot like driving stick. I’m terrible at driving stick, so this should be interesting. But I’m looking forward to trying.

Honestly, if I never get the hang of it, that will be okay. I’ll be happy enough to admire the machine and keep it polished. It is a thing of beauty and just looking at it makes me happy. But hopefully I’ll get the hang of treadling and, oh, you will be able to hear my squeals of delight for blocks when I do. I love the idea of actually sewing on that beautiful machine. I love the thought of operating it entirely under my own power — no electricity. I’ve been reading about how to treadle and watching videos, and I feel reasonably ready to go it a go. I’ll start without any thread and just a piece of paper, to see if I can get the hang of making the wheel spin in the proper direction. Then if all goes well, next week I’ll sew Eric some curtains for his home office.

I got a rubber belt for the 66 instead of the classic leather one. I read that the Amish use the rubber belts on their machines because they are less likely to slip. I figured they know, since they must actually use the machines for necessity and not just for fun, so I ordered one. I’d like my machine to be practical as well as beautiful.

I also plan to use the overlocker again towards the end of the week. I’m doing an online apron sewing workshop on Saturday, and so before then I need to overlock the raw edges of my fabric and give it a prewash. More good fun. I used the overlocker for the first time a little over a week ago and that had me laughing like a kid as the FOUR threads did their thing. I think maybe I am a little ridiculous, but I’m having so much fun I don’t care.

The Gift

I got a little emotional as I finished my jacket up yesterday. I sewed most of it on my 1941 Singer 221, which is the machine I have been teaching myself to sew on. But I finished up the cuffs on the Singer Stylist from the 70s which I inherited from my late mother-in-law. The Stylist has a free arm base, so it was much better for sewing up the cuffs. As I sewed on the machine, I thought about my mother-in-law, wishing she were still here and could give me advice about my sewing, and about anything else too. I thought about all the things she made on the machine, and I felt connected, and sad she was gone. She died this month three years ago, and I’ve been thinking about her a lot, and I know my husband has been too.

I think part of what I love about vintage machines is their sense of history. People have been sewing on them for a long time. I don’t know the history of my 1941 machine, but I can feel it when I sew a seam on it. So many people who have used it before me. And I do know something of the history of the Stylist, as my mother-in-law was its only owner.  My husband says he mostly remembers her sewing on a much older machine when he was young. She made clothes for him and his sister. This one must have been her modern upgrade. I don’t know how often she used it, as not long after she purchased it, I think she must have gone back to graduate school for her PhD and then after that she was a chemistry professor. But she kept the machine in good condition, and I’m sure she used it for little repair jobs, even if she didn’t sew full garments on it often. I can feel her presence when I use it, and that is a gift.

My husband says when he walks through the guest room and sees his mother’s machine, it makes him smile. That reason alone would be enough to give it its pride of place in the guest room. But it is also a good zig zagger, and a free arm machine, and it looks like a 70’s station wagon, and those are good reasons for its place as well. The Singer 221 lives on the tall dresser in that room when it isn’t being used, and it looks handsome in its place. It makes me smile when I see it, as I think of how I’ve learned to use it over the past months. How I can now wind a bobbin, thread the machine, and clear a thread jam, all without referring to the manual or to a YouTube tutorial. And how I’ve used it to make a garment that makes me feel like me. I see it, and I think, “Yes, that’s something I’d enjoy wearing.” And I do.